Captain Kanga on deck for 20 years
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
ON A weekend, most people will try and get away from their work.
A chef probably won't cook anything special at home, a cleaner could let the house work slip and a school teacher might try and stay away from kids.
That's unless the school teacher's name is Phil Crofts.
For the past 20 summers, Crofts has spent his Saturday mornings at Coffs Harbour Primary School introducing the game of cricket to countless youngsters in the area.
Last Saturday, there were nearly 60 young cricketers taking part in the Milo Have-a-Go program learning the basics off a man who continues to contribute to the game he loves long after many others would have passed the baton on.
"I haven't got any second generation cricketers coming through yet," Crofts joked about his longevity in the role.
"There have been some kids of kids that I taught at school though."
A known cricket lover himself, Crofts is modest when it comes to the efforts that he puts in himself.
"I tell the parents that I'm not doing anything different on a Saturday morning to what other teachers do during the week," he explained.
"As a kid you'd come along on a Saturday morning because you've obviously had a bit of a taste of cricket when you've played at school and you want to find out some more."
Over the 20 years that Crofts has put in with the softer bat and ball that the program offers, he admits that there haven't been any players go on to wear the baggy green but there have been a number of players go on to play well beyond the years that they were under his tutelage.
"The success for me is seeing the number of kids that are still playing cricket," he added.
"There's a lot of them playing in first, second, third and fourth grades as well as in the junior ranks.
"I've had a couple of kids go on to play in the Emu Colts like Damien Webeck but I think he would've made it without any influence from me.
"It's very rare that a coach succeeds despite the family influence."
Still, for a man who spends his work time with young kids at Upper Orara, why does he keep doing it on a summer weekend?
"Basically because I've always enjoyed it and I like cricket," he said.
"The good value for me is always to see kids enjoying it and watching their skills improve."